BRAND LEADERS of yesterday
 

 

                                                          British Brands - profiting from enterprise

OLDIES delight in "the good old days".
Before you read these histories of old brands first read the essay
--- USA : "The Dropout Economy"
(or generation millennial) ---

Also, for inspiration read UNDER 30'S -- THE FASTEST WAY TO THE TOP.

1. Morris cars. William Morris, later 1st Viscount Nuffield, was born in 1877 to a modest artisan family in Worcester, which moved to Oxford when he was 3. At age 15, he was apprenticed to a bicycle seller / repairer. Within 9 months, he had started his own business, from home, repairing bikes. He soon opened a High Street shop of his own. In 1901, he turned his attention to motor bikes, designing and building the Morris Motor Cycle. A year later, he acquired a garage and started selling cars.

In 1912, he launched the famous "Bullnose" Morris car from a disused military site at Cowley, outside Oxford. After WWI (which interrupted his production, as his factory was requisitioned) he went into mass production, acquiring 3 more factories by 1925. By WWII, he had acquired the brands Wolseley and Riley, creating the Nuffield Organisation (he was made a peer in 1934).

Post-WWII, Nuffield merged with Austin Motors to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC - later British Leyland, part-nationalised in 1975 and now owned by a Chinese company) in 1952. Lord Nuffield died childless in 1963, having founded Nuffield College Oxford and created the Nuffield Foundation with an endowment of £10m.

2. Lever Brothers. Their name incorporated in the vast conglomerate Unilever, the brothers William and James Lever were sons of a Lancashire grocer. William was the entrepreneur, his brother suffering from diabetes (then mistaken for a mental illness as it progressed). Starting at a relatively mature age of 35 and capitalising on the growth in consumer products wanted by the burgeoning middle classes, in 1866 he started a soap factory. He built a model community at Port Sunlight for the workers and was a follower of the ideas of Henry George and a Liberal politician, elected to the radical Parliament of 1906-9 and created Baron Leverhulme in 1917.

Lever's main skill was in sourcing the oil for his factory, from across the Commonwealth and beyond: his labour practices in the plantations (especially Belgian Congo) were often in stark contrast to those back home. He died in 1925.

Lever was also known for his innovative use of mass advertising. He once said: "Half my advertising money is wasted. The problem is I don't know which half!"

3. Rolls-Royce. Two very different characters gave their names to the most iconic of British cars. Charles Rolls was an aristocrat, whose early interest in motors earned him the nick-name of "Dirty Rolls" at Eton. Frederick Royce was the youngest son of a Lancashire miller whose business failed when Fred had only had a year of schooling.

At age 15, in 1878 Royce was helped by an aunt to start an apprenticeship on the railways. But finances ran out again and it wasn't until 1884 that, with £ 20 in savings, he teamed up with a partner to start a company making domestic electric fittings in Manchester. In 1899 Royce Ltd had a factory in Trafford Park making dynamos and electric cranes. By 1901, the company had moved into motor cars, acquiring two prized continental brands. One of Royce's co-directors was a friend of Charles Rolls and arranged a meeting in 1904, at which Rolls was so impressed with Royce's technical skills that he agreed to buy the entire output of what was to become the Rolls-Royce car.

Rolls-Royce Ltd was formed in 1906, with Rolls providing the business acumen and Royce the innovative, top quality, design and manufacturing for which their names became a byword. Rolls was killed in a flying accident in 1910.

In 1928 Royce developed the "R" aero-engine but his health had been poor since 1910 (owing, it is said, to his habit of skipping meals to work) and he never lived to see it power a RAF plane. However he was knighted for services to British aviation shortly before his death in 1932.

4. Cadbury. John Cadbury was, like many Victorian entrepreneurs, a Quaker. Born in 1801, when Quakers were denied entry to English universities - ruling out medicine or law as a career - Cadbury applied his energies to business. After apprenticeship to a tea-dealer, he opened a grocery in Birmingham in 1824. He switched to the manufacture of drinking chocolate in 1831, motivated by his temperance beliefs. He saw alcohol as a social evil and as he prospered he put more energy into campaigning against a range of such evils: from child labour to animal cruelty.

Cadbury retired in 1860 to devote himself to social causes. His sons moved the business out into suburban Worcestershire (now Bournville) in 1878. Like Lever, they created a model village for their workers: just 313 dwellings on 330 acres by 1900, when a Trust was formed to manage the estate, now housing 25,000 on 4 sq. km. The area remains 'dry' - and largely in company ownership - to this day, although fewer than half the residents are linked by work to Cadbury's.

Merging with Fry's as early as 1919, then with Swiss-born London-based Johann Schweppes' drink manufacturing business in 1969 (de-merging in 2008) Cadbury's has just been itself the subject of a foreign, debt-financed takeover by Kraft Foods.

5. Lipton. Thomas Lipton was born in 1848 of Ulster Scot farming stock, shortly after his family moved to Glasgow. By 1860, his parents ran their own small shop in the Gorbals district. Thomas left school at 13 to supplement the family income as an errand-boy and then tailor's cutter. However he also enrolled at night-school.

In 1864, he signed up as a cabin-boy, crossed the Atlantic and spent five years travelling America, taking on a variety of jobs: book-keeping, door-to-door salesman, farmhand and finally grocery assistant. Back in Glasgow, he soon opened his own shop: Lipton's Market. In 1888, with 300 stores to his name throughout Britain, he ventured into the tea trade which made his name. He was able to take advantage of falling commodity prices and his own stores to vastly increase sales of tea to the working-classes. He bought his own tea estates and completely eliminated middle-men, thus establishing a strong popular and reliable brand.

In his later years, he moved increasingly in international yachting circles and was a regular challenger for The Americas Cup. However the exclusive Royal Yacht Club only admitted this self-made man to its ranks shortly before his death in 1931. Meanwhile he devoted much of his fortune to promoting soccer as an international sport - and to the arts.

6. Rowntree. Joseph Rowntree was, like John Cadbury, a Victorian Quaker. Born 1836, starting work in his father's grocery aged 14, at 33 he joined his brother Henry, who owned a chocolate factory in York. When Henry died in 1883, Joseph took over the business, which grew to 4,000 employees by 1900.

Rowntree made a point of looking after those employees extremely well, providing free education, library, doctor, dentist - and affordable housing on 150 acres of land he acquired near the factory. He was a follower of Henry George and the Liberal Party and in 1904 established the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to promote research primarily into the causes of poverty, although over time JRF has spent far more on attempting to mitigate its effects. Rowntree himself had a passion for statistics and his accounting flair was thought to be a key factor in business success. JRF's research reports are notable for their use of statistics.
Rowntree endowed four trusts altogether. The one non-charitable trust explicitly supports liberal causes and has been by far the largest donor of the Liberal Democrat Party since its formation.

7. Vickers-Armstrong. This internationally famous engineering brand was formed in 1927 from the merger of Vickers Ltd and Armstrong Whitworth, both having their roots in Victorian manufacturing enterprise of northern England.

Edward Vickers owned a mill near Sheffield, inherited from his father. He married into a family that owned a foundry nearby and prospered from the proximity of water, coal and iron ore. By the time of the 1851 Great Exhibition, Vickers was able to produce the largest steel ingots in the world (well over 1 tonne). When Bessemer invented the first bulk steel-making process nearby, Vickers exploited it to become the world's largest steel manufacturer. Sheffield dominated the global market for railways and shipping with over half the total steel output. Edward's sons Thomas (as metallurgist) and Albert (marketing), both working up through the ranks, were key to the firm's rapid development. The firm moved into forging and casting, which led to armaments manufacture in the 1880s. They bought up the Barrow shipyard in 1897, with its subsidiary Maxim (guns and ammunition).

William Armstrong, born 1810, was son of a Newcastle corn merchant who wanted him to study law but, since his grammar school days, took an interest in engineering. For 11 years he practised as a solicitor in Newcastle. A keen angler, he noticed one day while fishing how much energy was wasted by a water-wheel. He began to design hydraulic engines, which were made in a friend's factory. In 1846, his amateur efforts were recognised when he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. He persuaded the Corporation of Newcastle to install a new piped water supply for the whole city, with hydraulic pumps. He also equipped the quays of Newcastle docks with his hydraulic cranes, then established a company of his own to build them for other docks, railways. By 1854 his company was producing 100 cranes a year. He then branched out into bridge manufacture and armaments, designing a new light, breech-loaded, rifled field-gun for the Crimean War, the patent rights for which he gave to the Government (and was rewarded with a knighthood). The guns were later sold to both sides in the American Civil War, and used by Japan's navy to help defeat the Russians in 1905.

From 1863, he became less involved in the company and took to the life of country gentleman. However his houses were superbly designed with all the latest engineering gadgets: Cragside, near Rothbury, was the first in the world to be powered by hydro-electricity. He died there, as Baron Armstrong, in 1900, having predicted that within two centuries Britain would cease to use coal for energy. He advocated solar power as well as hydro.

US

Hewlett-Packard. Founded by Bill Hewlett and David Packard in a garage in Palo Alto CA in 1939, "HP" did not register its famous logo or benefit from powerful branding until the 1950s. Hewlett and Packard graduated together in electrical engineering during the depths of the Depression, first using their trademark in 1941. Hewlett was the technical innovator, Packard the expert administrator.

The business was built up on manufacture of a wide range of precision measuring and testing instruments. It was their innovative use of electronics to minimise size and cost while maximising precision which gave their products the edge over competitors.

HP is recognised as the symbolic founder of Silicon Valley, in 1960, although they did not at first manufacture the semi-conductors for which The Valley became famous. When they did, it was for internal use as components for instruments that they themselves sold. Later they incorporated mini-computers from DEC into their machines, before embarking on computer manufacture themselves in 1966.

Packard was briefly a member of Nixon's Administration in 1969-71 and continued to advise the White House through the 1980s on the use of resources in defence procurement and deployment, bringing much of his business acumen into public service.

Hewlett remained more closely involved in HP's business than Packard, was its President from 1964 until 1977, then Vice Chairman until 1987. Packard died in 1993, Hewlett in 2001. Both put much of their fortune into charitable foundations carrying their name. Packard was worth more than $1bn on his death, having started with an investment of $534.


HP has just announced record profits on $100 billion turnover. What a company! There really is the HP way.